Can I Play?

EL CAJON, CA — The hardest thing about pickup basketball is managing the number of players. The game is meant for 10 players (or in the case of Lunchsketball, 8 players). Go above that number, and the court gets crowded. Fall below that number, and there is more open space on the court, and the game becomes a track meet. To have either of those two problems means that you are lucky in the first place – it’s a small miracle in this day and age to find enough guys willing to meet up and play basketball at all.

Gary (aka “G-Money”), has voluntarily positioned himself as commissioner of Lunchsketball, and thus taken up this task of personnel management. Bearing no actual authority, Gary has become resourceful in finding ways to control who shows up on the court at lunch and who stays back at the office. Among the methods at his disposal are peer pressure, guilt, payroll (in cases where he signs a timesheet), and shaming,  to name a few.

Gary’s methods came under the spotlight this week when John (aka “Versace”), contacted the Lunchsketball blog, wishing to share an incident in which he became involved. He alleges that on the morning of January 13th, 2014, he emailed Gary the commissioner, requesting to play basketball at lunch. He received this reply from Gary:

 “Sorry John….we have enough today…..maybe tomorrow…..” 

“[Gary] tried to tell me that he wasn’t trying to diss me, and that he would see if he could ‘slip me in’ later in the week,” explained John. “His attitude was that you can’t just come in and expect to play.”

The idea of excluding a particular player from Lunchsketball does raise some questions, but especially in the case of someone like John, whose struggles getting onto the court are well documented. Of all the players to freeze out, John was perhaps an unfortunate choice. 

“It’s my first time back in a year,” says John. “That’s not a very good way to encourage me to keep coming out. Obviously I was disappointed. I got up that morning, and I was excited, I told my wife I’d be playing , and then to have my hopes dashed like that… my heart was broken. It just took the wind out of my sails. For the rest of the day I didn’t know what to do with myself.”

In approaching the Lunchsketball blog with this story, John wanted to make it clear that he does not hold any animosity to Gary. Because John insists that he is on good terms with the commissioner, it would be nice to say that’s the end of the story.  But it isn’t. When one victim steps forward, the case is often that there will be more to follow.  What happened to John was not an isolated incident. The second victim, who wishes to be called “E”, in order to protect his identity, provided an interview so startling, that it must be transcribed in full as follows:

Anonymous Victim "E"

Anonymous Victim, “E”

LB: When John told you that he wasn’t allowed to play, what did that make you think?

E: I felt guilt. I felt guilty because I was going to play, and I felt sorry for John.

LB: You’ve been in John’s situation before. Can you tell us about that?

E: It doesn’t feel good. You come into work, expecting to play basketball, and come noon? You’re not allowed to play! Why me? And most of the time, when I’m not able to play, I’m harassed for that: “Come on. You’ve gotta play! You’ve gotta play! You’ve gotta play!” And then, on a day I’m prepared to play? No luck. It’s schizophrenic! He wants it both ways at once.

LB:  In his email, Gary suggested that John could play, “maybe tomorrow”? Do you believe that Gary really believed there would be a game at all “tomorrow”?

E: I’m sorry, I’m not comfortable answering that.

LB: So we know that this has happened before. Since there’s a history, do you worry that these types of abuses might continue to happen?

E: I’m always concerned that it’s going to happen to me again, because it’s been me in the past. It’s a strange a position, because even though I hope it doesn’t happen to me, I know it’s going to happen, and I don’t want to wish it on somebody else. I wish we could just go with 13 or 14 guys and play, and just make it work. One extra guy is not going to hurt anybody.

LB: Do you have any advice for John, in dealing with this?

E: Take heart. The field is always open amongst the other players, even if the commissioner [Gary] doesn’t feel so open.

LB: What words would you have for Gary, if he were here right now?

E: Soften your heart. Just let everyone enjoy the game. I always say, in quiet, hey, if you don’t like playing with 10 or 11 guys, you can step out. The rest of us are willing to put up with 11 guys, and do battle.

* * *

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Open Letter To Coach Scott Mitchell

Subject: Proposed Game vs Firebirds

Sent: Sun 01/12/2014 9:30 PM

To: coachscott@stkath.org

cc: coachdavid@stkath.org

Dear Coach Mitchell,

I hereby challenge your St. Katherine College Firebirds Men’s Basketball team to a game against me and my co-workers during our lunch break.

In considering this challenge, please remember the sportsmanship of one Steve Fisher, who brought his squad of blue-chippers to play against your upstart Firebirds in a gesture of class and goodwill. Just as it was a break-through for your program to take the floor against the Aztecs, the opportunity to match up against a legitimate, NAIA organization such as St. Katherine College would mean the world to my boys.

It can be any work day, for about an hour between 12 and 2. The venue is an outdoor court in El Cajon, CA. You can find out all about the players and our program’s rich history at https://lunchsketball.wordpress.com/ (Lunch + Basketball = Lunchsketball, see).

Above all, I’d like you to know that I have the utmost admiration for your team. First of all, I love St. Catherine of Alexandria (using the “K” is an Orthodox thing… why don’t you guys just be Catholic? We can talk about that later). And secondly, I love the name. The Firebirds. I think that the mascot should be a Pontiac Firebird. Or maybe the Firebird mascot himself could be more conventional, like a guy in a big bird suit with flames on it (kids love that stuff), but HE could lead the team into the arena inside a roaring 1980 Trans Am, waiving the St. Katherine College banner through the open T-top, with the likeness of Saint Katherine herself at the steering wheel, which would, appropriately, be covered with intimidating spikes. Picture that. Did you just get chills?

EncinitasBut what am I doing, giving tips to the competition? Well, consider that nugget your stipend in advance. Now you have to make the trip. Let’s talk logistics. According to the St. Katherine College website, your Encinitas campus is just minutes from downtown San Diego, and so by my calculations, El Cajon is also just minutes from Encinitas. I would love to play at your venue, but there is no way I could talk the guys into a road trip. They are dads and family men, and their wives would not approve of any of this.

I don’t know what else to say. Please? You really only need to send 4 guys. Three will do just as well, but Lunchsketball is putting four of our guys on the court at a time. You are welcome to be a player-coach too. Your call.

Respectfully yours,

George

New Player Profile: Tim

If you would rather not subject yourself to a butchered performance of a reprehensible song, then here are the Cliffsnotes: The above video is a Lunchsketball first – a player profile, set to “music”. The lyrics are about how Tim, aka “T-Ry”, aka “Benjamin Button” is pretty good at basketball, but he gets hurt a lot. He is tough and will probably be back on the court eventually. The End.

Putting 2013 in the Books

Main Story:

Good-bye-bye-2013-wallpaperThat moment has come once again, to step inside of our San Dimas phone booth and go back in time for an excellent adventure reviewing a year that was. During 2013, we rode the ups and downs of the Power Rankings Presented By Gary. Our hearts were warmed when Lunchsketball’s plea for help was met with a nationwide outpouring of $72 of support. Tears when the blog went away for the summer turned to joy and laughter when it returned in the fall. In as many words, it was another banner year on the blacktop.

This was a year that saw the emergence of a new franchise. Take four guys whose combined years of experience go north of 220, add Adam, aka “Whirling Dervish”, and what you have is chemistry that works.  Adam’s invention quickly turned into a fan-favorite juggernaut, ripping through opponents with ease, and “Adam & the Geezers” became a household name. Just as the Geezers were coming on the scene though, an existing franchise took the next step: The Dream Team.

2013-10-31 12.48.38

On Halloween, Kerry, George and Darin, (collectively aka “The Dream Team”) took to the court with authentic, Team USA licensed, Dream Team jerseys. Wearing Reggie Miller’s #10, Kerry (aka “Miller Time”) capped off a memorable victory with one of his signature “Let’s go have lunch” three pointers. An effort is underway now to have the jerseys retired in the rafters of the warehouse.

As you may recall, at the outset of 2013, Lunchsketball set some resolutions for a handful of its members.

  • John (aka “Versace”) had the challenging, but very realistic goal of playing in 10 games. The results are in, and John managed to play in just 1 game this year. He didn’t actually play in that game. He sat near the court, and he was wearing shorts, and so he was awarded credit of playing in hopes of encouraging more participation. So John came through on barely 10% of the goal, but really more like 0%. Better luck next year, John.
  • It is hard to believe, but Matt (aka “2 Shins”) went a full year and did not dislocate any of his shoulders. At least not on the court. Well done Matt!
  • Erik (aka “Gumby”) had been asked to curb the spending on his footwear, and success was a shoe-in for him! Stomping a foot on the accelerator early, Erik paid $1 per shoe for a pair of kicks from Goodwill in January, and when those burned out, he finished the year wearing the best available unclaimed shoes he could find in the office from day-to-day. For the price of a set of LeBron XI’s, Erik could play basketball for 100 years. Good on ya, Erik!
  • George’s goal was to average 1 Lunchsketball post per week. It just happened. This is post number 52 during 2013. That total does include some that were mostly written by Gary or Kerry, and it also includes a couple of “Sorry there won’t be a post this week” entries, but technically, mission accomplished.

In Memoriam:

And now, a moment to remember those dear to Lunchsketball, lost during 2013:

Under Armour Spongetech

Under Armour Spongetech

Caltrans Shoes

Caltrans Shoes

Beloved Wavey Ball

Beloved Wavey Ball

New Year’s Resolution

Lunchsketball has a resolution for 2014. It is time for a group resolution – Lunchsketball should come together as a team. Literally. The New Year’s Resolution for 2014 for Team Lunchsketball is the following: Challenge an outside organization to a game.

This resolution is inspired by none other than St. Katherine College coach Scott Mitchell. According to this U/T article, when Coach Mitchell happened upon the opportunity to meet the coach of the #20 nationally ranked SDSU Aztecs, he challenged them to a showdown against his St. Katherine College Firebirds. There are just over 100 students attending his school. The Aztecs accepted, and the result was an amazing 118 -34 final score. It will be left to your imagination as to who was on what side of that score.

If Steve Fisher will bring his team out to play against the Firebirds, then why can’t Scott Mitchell answer the call to scrimmage Lunchsketball?

The game would be played on Lunchsketball’s terms:

  • Tip-off at 12:20 pm on a weekday.
  • Lunchsketball has home court.
  • 4 on 4, so that Gary has enough room to shoot.
  • No refs.
  • Game to 50 by 2’s and 3’s, change direction at 25.
  • Kerry is allowed to slap.
  • Back court rules only apply to the other team.

Lunchsketball will be reaching out to Coach Mitchell in the near future. Look forward to an open letter on the blog.

New Player Profile: Gary’s Kids

OffspringABOUT GARY’S KIDS: Any time that Lunchsketball finds itself a player or two short, Gary hits the phones like an NBA GM at the trading deadline. He flips through a rolodex full of sons, grandsons, nephews, and in-laws who he can call up to the big leagues on a couple hours’ notice.

Gary Jr., Chris, Richie, Micheal, and David collectively serve the role of the proverbial “kid” at Lunchsketball. They fall in an age range between middle school and 25 and they share a habit of running around really fast the whole game. The fact that they look to varying degrees kind of like each other lends them a sort of interchangeability that is perfect for the role of Lunchsketball sub.

Chris has the most experience of the bunch. Chris is Gary’s son and goes by the mysterious nick-name “Fargell” [ far – jell ]. “Fargell” is a Gary family inside joke that none of them are comfortable explaining to the public.   All kinds of sailor talk has been known to fly at Lunchsketball, so what could it possibly be that would make anybody blush? The ambiguity surrounding the “Fargell” moniker only feeds the curiosity. One is left to speculate that the origins of “Fargell” are amazingly shameful and offensive.

Chris (aka “Fargell”) is a streaky shooter from the outside. When he shoots threes, he always steps on the line for some reason and so they become really long twos. Other than that, his only real weakness is that sometimes at 10:45 in the morning he is still too hung over to answer the phone when his dad calls, and so he misses the game. He must be near to graduating from the Lunchsketball kids program, and so his final appearances are to be cherished. He is sort of the Allan Iverson of Lunchsketball. Heart, hustle and defiance he wears all on his sleeve – his therapeutic compression sleeve.

Gary Jr. is Chris’ older brother. Gary has a lot of nicknames mostly tied to his being the second Gary; hence Gary the Lesser, Lower Case g, Gary 2.0, Gary XP, Gary Vista, Little Gary, etc. Gary Jr. plays the game with a style very similar to his father’s. Just like his old man, he usually scores on mid-range shots from the baseline. It is like watching Big G on fast-forward, except without all the shoving. Unfortunately, he comes to Lunchsketball less and less in days of late.

Micheal is the Micheal Jordan of Gary’s Kids. He’s not actually Gary’s kid; he is related, but must have received a stronger cocktail of basketball DNA than the rest. He never seems to need to work very hard to play well and he always just looks like he knows what he is doing. It is very annoying. Fortunately, he only shows up when the San Diego Unified School District is not in session, because he is only 10 or something. He is the most “the kid” of all the “the kids”. He can make an open three and he has a Tony Parker/JJ Barea sort of running floater that is unstoppable.

Richie is another steady contributor. Richie sometimes plays with his iPod on (a *very* “the kid” sort of move to pull). His style of play is like a compromise between Chris and Micheal, although he is probably the largest of “Gary’s Kids” and can play more in the paint, especially on defense.

Last but not least there is David who, like Micheal, only shows up when school is out. David seems perhaps the youngest of the group. He already has a  penchant for building a house of bricks all game long before proceeding to end it with a deep, nothing-but-net, three, and so his future looks bright.

Lunchsketball salutes Gary’s Kids. Were it not for you, many a lunch would be spent without basketball.